Newly released figures reveal that there are now over 2,000 homeless applicants on the social housing waiting list in Derry area.
Figures obtained by the Housing Executive yesterday show that by the start of this year, a total of 3,479 local families or single people were on the waiting list in Derry, 2,144 of them homeless.
Despite an increase in the number of new build housing projects, the overall figures have remained virtually static when compared with the 3,425 applicants on the waiting list back in March 2015.
It has also emerged that during 2016, 637 properties in Derry were allocated to families or single people. Almost every home available - 617 - was allocated to a Full Duty (homeless) applicant.
Sinn Féin Assembly candidate Raymond McCartney said the 5.8% rise in homelessness across the north pointed to the need for more social housing. He said: “In the last recorded quarter 4,924 people presented as homeless. This has a huge impact on areas of high demand such as Derry.
“Sinn Féin has argued that major investment needs to be put into new builds in these areas. It is no longer good enough to say the private rented sector will take the slack.
“Housing providers and the Minister need to concentrate on areas of high demand. Government departments also need to release land to make it easier for housing providers to build in communities where extreme need exists.”
Responding to Mr McCartney’s comments, a spokesperson for the Department for Communities said they were investing £35m to provide vital support services.
“The Department is also working to deliver on the ambitious target of providing a further 9,600 social homes by 2021 and is investing almost £1 million in housing advice services which will help households take action on serious housing issues and directly prevent homelessness.”
She said that the Department was also currently engaged in a government project to assess the potential of public sector land for housing.
Homelessness, she stated, “is not the same as ‘rooflessness’ which means that someone is without shelter of any kind and sleeping rough”.
The Department is also working in collaboration with various other bodies to look at the “wider societal issues” connected to homelessness.